Now that I’ve re-opened the agency to queries, I want to make good on a long-ago promise to write about what makes a query stand out for me. Many writers have told me that writing a query letter is harder than writing a novel and I can certainly see why. But it also forces you to think about your work in broad strokes, its themes and its subject matter, and gives you some sense of how to talk about it in a few sentences, which is something you’ll have to do anyway when you appear on Oprah!
A query stands out:
1. When it is well-written. This seems obvious, but in fact even if you are a good writer it is not easy to write a query letter that reflects your writing ability. Still, it’s important that the letter reflects how well you can write.
2. When the letter includes apt comparisons. Let’s face it, very few authors will write a book that will do as well as The Help or The Da Vinci Code so it’s better to be a little more modest – and more realistic – in one’s comparisons. But do include them, as they are extremely useful in situating your query in my mind.
3. When the synopsis is succinct and provides not only a brief summary of the story but also its themes.
4. When the bio gives an indication of why you are writing this particular book at this particular time. No need to include hobbies or marital status. I want to know who are as a writer, what led you to write this book.
5. When the letter gives me a sense of why you are querying my particular agency. I don’t represent everything, I clearly have areas of specialization. What do you know about my agency that makes you feel I would be a competent agent for your project?
6. When the letter demonstrates familiarity with publishing, its genres, its fads and trends and you give me a sense of how your work fits (or doesn’t) into them.
Hope this was helpful!